Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Shawanderful CT

Hope you all enjoyed the weekend -- esp US readers who got to enjoy an extra day in honor of Memorial Day Weekend!

charles doin his charlie thing
We've often rung in the holiday weekend with a trip out to Loch Moy for their final event of the Spring season.... But this year, our local combined training association the MCTA reinstated their starter event at local Shawan Downs. Obviously we had to capitalize on this chance to compete at such an iconic venue!

my early morning attempt at cinematically capturing the rain....
It was funny, tho, in that.... not-actually-very-funny karmic sort of way... but all last weekend while I volunteered at the recognized HT in 90* temps, I couldn't help but feel smug that we'd have a much better forecast for our own starter this past weekend. PLUS -- the forecast even called for a little rain to soften up the ground!

charles wishes i didn't take him out in public dressed like this....
Smug is as smug does, tho, and I was singing a very different tune after 1inch+ of rain overnight, and the promise of much more to come throughout the day..... Ooh, and. Predicted gusts of 20mph, rendering it completely unwise to try setting up my nice 12'x12' canopy. Womp. 

i usually hate covering charlie's big beautiful star with a bonnet but... eh, it kept the rain out of his ears
Honestly, at this particular moment in my emotional development, I need basically everything to be 110% perfect for me to feel even mildly comfortable in the lead up to a show. So the whole "pouring cats and dogs" thing sorta predictably threw me through a loop.

guys he's become such a trier!!!!
But... Eh. The weather sorta lightened up a little bit as my dressage time rolled around. So ya know. I got on the horse and off we went. I didn't even stud Charlie up, although dressage was on wet muddy grass.... such was the extent of my non-commitment haha. But actually, bless him, Charlie was fine.  

judges always want more from him, but i honestly quite like this <3
Better than fine -- he's a pro. Obviously

good boy, sir
If you asked Charlie how he did in his test, he'd tell you: 

"I put my head down! I go-ed when she said go! I whoa-ed when she said whoa!! And I did all the turns nice and steady with my nose pointed in the correct direction -- and only slipped twice!!!! Basically, I won!"

Yes Sir. Obviously, yes, you won <3

scored test sheet for all y'all non video watchers
Obviously actual dressage judges are always coming into these things with all these expectations about roundness and suppleness and impulsion and uphill balance and energy and and and and... blah blah blah, lol. They're so needy haha.

he was surprisingly snug and satisfied hangin outside the trailer in just his rain sheet!
As far as I'm concerned, tho, I'm perfectly pleased with the test. First most bc I actually did it, go me. Secondly, bc Charlie obviously thinks he's basically the best at this (nobody ever tell him any differently, kthxbai). And third of all -- I kinda love the progression of scores haha. From straight 6's, to... ok, here's some 6.5s, to... huh, ok, straight 7s to finish. 

I don't think the judge loved how Charlie goes, but maybe couldn't deny that, actually, he goes just fine, thanks -- especially after a little canter! (Or, ya know, maybe I'm just *finally* figuring out how to ride his canter in a show ring lol....)

eternally grateful that the rain was much much lighter than anticipated
So anyway. The test was done. I'd walked my course the day before (thus avoiding the deluge), and Amy didn't do her dressage until the same time I jumped. So there really wasn't much else to do during the 2hr break before stadium but sit around inside the trailer, vacillating wildly about whether to jump at all or not. 

On one hand, ugh no let's scratch immediately. On the other, tho.... Emma. Emma. For cryin out loud, get on your horse and jump him around. Jesus christ. Pop in the studs, toss on the saddle. And do it.  

i'll spare you snapshots of every jump on course. but omg is this not THE ACTUAL CUTEST THO OMG?!
Old Bay, y'all. if you know -- you know
So I made a little deal with myself. A little compromise, let's say. I decided we'd just do the show jumping, but not the cross country. Not because anything was specifically wrong, per se, other than something being apparently broken deep inside my head at the moment. There's just this really strong feeling of "I don't wanna," and ya know. Who am I to deny my own self in that moment, lol?
That probably sounds crazy, but I'm kinda past trying to rationalize it or explain it at this point. All that mattered to me was, I settled on a deal with my own self, tacked up the horse, and set out to execute on that plan. 

We got to warm up right on time to warm up with the earliest birds in our class -- local legends Sally Cousins and Colleen Rutledge. Plus some very lovely ladies I've had the pleasure of riding with in lessons. AND a barn mate was there working as a groom, and thus setting fences. 

This all felt very promising -- we could get in our warm up, benefiting from the progression in fence heights my friend was setting for her rider (not that Charlie needed it, but obvi this isn't really about Charlie any more, is it...). Then I got to watch the pros put together some lovely courses -- plus a couple of friends, before it was our turn. 

The course wasn't much different from when I was timer on the Intermediate through training courses the week prior -- but a couple jumps were taken out, plus some lines shifted to better ground in such a way as to open up the trickier turns. Overall -- it looked great. 

punky had a great day too!
And once on course? It really rode great too. I was very much all aboard the waiting train -- taking a balanced-but-with-impulsion canter to the base of every fence, given the ground conditions. But Charlie was in that perfect zone -- bang on the aids, ready to adjust and adapt at the drop of a hat. Including down the line from 3 to 4 when I wanted the seven strides but got there long and chucked the reins at him lol.... Nbd, he covered for me!

Everything else rode fine -- he landed great from all the jumps, made all the turns perfectly (even that quick turn on landing after jump 7) and nailed the two-stride to finish. Plus was so on point with his auto-changes that I legit do not remember a single moment on course where I even thought about it (tho you can see in the video where he does the changes).

added another white 4th place ribbon to the collection for our dressage placing 
It was a short course of just 9 jumps, but honestly I think Charlie would have done just as well had it been longer. He's just such a pro. 

And obviously I had no reason to suspect he'd be any different out on cross country. But we all know it's not really about that at this point. 

the bestest boy
So we finished show jumping, moseyed over to the TD to let them know we'd be withdrawing prior to xc, and I headed back to the trailer finally feeling relieved and happy haha. 

Honestly couldn't be more thrilled with Charlie's performance, too. Much to my surprise, we were tied for 4th -- right in the middle of the pack -- after dressage. Then moved into 3rd with our clear show jumping. It's pointless to speculate on what would have happened on cross country, but it's nice to think that even with all my ridiculousness, we can still get nice results that do justice to the horse haha. 

So. Another CT in the books haha. And when you consider the epic and wonderful xc lesson we had at the same venue last week, it's *almost* as if we'd done the full three phases lol. Almost. Good 'nuff, as far as I'm concerned! 


  1. I so get the 'broken head' thing. But good for you in doing part of it. Don't beat yourself up for not doing cross country. You put in a solid dressage test and show jump round and ended on a high. Good for you.

    1. ha thanks - definitely very happy with charlie's performance <3 and he certainly doesn't know we skipped a phase lol

  2. I went through a period of huge confidence loss with horses as a late teen/early college student. Do what you feel good about doing, and never feel guilty about it, because doing what you can until you can do more is the path to getting back to a good place!

    1. thanks yea i'm definitely sticking to doing things i want to do. it's funny -- it's not really about confidence at this point, bc i feel like we're actually riding pretty well right now, the jumps don't bother me at all. it's just the... vague sense of existential dread? lol .... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  3. I think that's a great choice so long as you ended the day feeling happy, relaxed and confident. And it sounds like you did! Have you ever thought about giving h/j more of a go in general? I realize the last show gave you a bad taste in your mouth (and rightly so!) but maybe there's some opportunity there in general?

    1. we're lucky to have tons of options in this area, so it's pretty easy to zip around here and there catching whatever events look like fun. that often means all sorts of CTs, derbies and little jumper shows etc., which we've done lots of in recent years -- actually more of those than full three phase events, believe it or not

  4. I think it was a good call. You made yourself do some of the thing you were dreading, and had a great experience. I'm willing to bet if the weather had been more favorable, so too would have been your desire to run cross country. Either way, sounds like great rides and a good day!

    1. thanks i'm loving how well charlie is doing in the show jumping too!! it's like he just got so rideable out of nowhere -- crazy what practice will do LOL

  5. Sounds like a good day despite some tricky weather and footing. And I agree with the other comments on making a good call to push yourself a bit, but not too much. (PS - please send some rain north!)

    1. thanks yea i'm super pleased with the dressage test. feels like the sorta hands-off approach i took to our schooling all winter has really helped charlie figure out how to soften and come more through over his back (even tho the judge maybe didn't agree haha, but obvi she wouldn't know where we're coming from LOL)

  6. I love your attitude to dressage, I think I need to transplant in to my attitude! I think it sounds like a great day out, and there is nothing wring with staying within comfortable parameters with a little bit of a push too!

    1. Ha thanks - The dressage has been a struggle for us for a lot of reasons, with a lot of judges not at all liking the way he goes or the way I ride. We kinda readjusted (“gave up”) this past winter and I completely changed how I ride him. It isn’t really classically correct lol but I think he’s more relaxed and free and happy in the work - so it makes a more or less nice picture for these very basic tests.

  7. Like how much do Dressage judges expect when it's fucking raining?

    Congrats on moving into 3rd after SJ even if you didn't finish XC, it's better to go with your gut.

    1. thanks lol yea nobody else's gut/opinion/validation matters in my decision making bc nobody else has to deal with the repercussions if things don't go well, ya know? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  8. The point is to have fun and sounds like you did just that!! Nice jumping round and I thought the dressage looked great too!

    1. thanks!! i'm so pleased with how charlie is jumping at shows right now -- he's honestly so much better at shows than at home (where he's lazy lol) that i'm legit considering how i can get him out for jumper rounds near-weekly to keep him in work that way LOL

  9. I admire you so much as a rider so it's... I don't want to say nice because it sucks for you... but... comforting? to hear you talk about the confidence issues you face at times. And I'm a firm believer in trusting your gut when it comes to these things. Like, maybe (probably) things would have been fine, but if something had happened after your gut told you not to do it, then what? Better safe than sorry, I always say. With all that out of the way, I love what a pro Charlie is and how much credit you give him, even though it's your hard work that made him like this. I always get so much joy out of watching your tests.

    1. aw thanks, that's very kind of you. riding is hard and will always be a mental game. tho i think the fuckery of 2020 opened up all sorts of other issues for many MANY folks, and right now i straight up do not have the emotional resilience to handle the fallout from bad experiences lol, so... yea.

      anyway, charlie IS such a pro -- he really clicks into gear at horse shows and i love it!! it's like he knows what's expected of him and takes it very seriously lol

  10. The wonderful thing is that you have this gorgeous, sweet, kind horse to be there for you while you sort out your own head. I have SO MUCH head-sorting to do that my brain will legit explode if faced with anything more than a nice little sandbox without any jumps in it, so I think you're freaking amazing! Your mojo will return, and Charlie is wonderful and right there for you when it does <3


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